NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured many mesmerizing and amazing images of several galaxies over decades. However, recently, it presented the most serendipitous image of a special image of one of the several galaxies we have. The galaxy cluster represented in the image is the SDSS J1038+4849. It has arranged itself in a unique fashion so as to form a celestial smile face. The first person to notice the special arrangement was Judy Schmidt.
Schmidt was among several others citizen scientists who participated in the Hidden Treasures competition of the Hubble. The competition is an image processing initiative that allows participants to explore the vast quantities of Hubble’s observations. The participants’ results reveal a hoard of unexpected astronomical formations, which are prone to be ignored in the huge database of the Hubble. One such discovery was Schmidt’s observation of a cluster of galaxies that formed a smiling face.
The image in the discussion was obtained using Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, together with the Wide Field Camera 3.
The celestial smiley face was produced by gravitational lensing, a process that was envisaged by the theory of general relativity by Albert Einstein. In the process, a large object having high gravitational pull, like a galaxy cluster, warps the light emitted by far-away objects while magnifying objects that are situated at a vantage point for earthly observers.
The ESA’s Hubble webpage explains the formation of the smiley face in details. According to it, the eyes of the face were formed by two radiant galaxies while the smiling mouth was actually a part of an Einstein Ring. The website explains that the mouth was formed as a result of the bending of light around the said galaxy. It was generated as the light-source, the lensing, and the Earth got together to form a symmetrical alignment.